Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 22 October, 2020

 

As you’ll see below, the US moved up to the second most virus affected country in the world this week, and credibly might move further up to become the world’s most affected country during the next week (in terms of cases per million).  Needless to say, this is not something we should feel proud about.

Much has been written elsewhere about how the US has shifted to a “blame someone else” society where many people avoid accepting personal responsibility.  I see that in the continued references to “a second wave” (or sometimes described as a third wave), trying to shift responsibility for the growing number of cases away from personal behavior and instead to an impersonal outsider, the second wave.  I’ve written about this before.

I’m now seeing another excuse and attempt at shifting responsibility – the growth is inevitable because winter is coming, and everyone knows that because the ‘flu is seasonal, so too must be the Covid-19 virus.   That’s another excuse I totally reject (and the statistics on the timing of virus “waves” also shows no indication of any seasonal influences).

Here’s a case in point.  This article opens with a headline blaming winter for Alaska’s rising virus numbers, but if you read the actual article, you’ll see that it is all about crowds of people all indoors together, and not wearing masks.  That’s a pair of unforced voluntary actions on the parts of the people involved – to congregate in high density indoor locations, and not to wear masks when doing so.

If we need further reminder of the man-made and unnecessary nature of the growth of the virus in the US, here’s an article that has a too-tentative headline – “How the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally may have spread coronavirus across the Upper Midwest”.  The italics are mine, and I’d suggest the article would be more accurate if those two words were removed.

Allowing almost half a million people from all around the country to crowd, maskless, into a tiny SD town for ten days, then spread out again, not just around the upper Midwest, but all around the entire country, must surely be one of the most spectacularly inappropriate actions in the eight months of this virus scourge so far.

Testing and Tracing.  Social Distancing.  Masks.  Three incredibly simple measures that in some countries have stopped the virus in its tracks.  Why can’t we do the same?

Current Numbers

Andorra moved from third to top spot in the minor country list.  We couldn’t help but be amused at the cases/million statistic for The Vatican, which for some days now has been steadily showing 33,666.

There’s been a big change in the major country rankings.  After a very long time in the third spot, the US has now convincingly displaced Chile and moved up to the number two placing.  It is even possible that this time next week might see it push Peru out of the current number one position.

Colombia moved down two places, pushed aside as part of the European crisis.  We expect Sunday will see the 12th place taken by UK, but it will be a long time before any more European countries reach Colombia, which is far ahead of the Netherlands.

The death list continues to be reasonably stable.

Top Case Rates Minor Countries

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Qatar Andorra
2 Bahrain Qatar
3 Andorra Bahrain
4 Aruba Aruba
5 French Guiana French Guiana
6 Israel Vatican City
7 Vatican City Israel
8 Panama Panama
9 Kuwait Kuwait
10 Montenegro Montenegro

 

Top Case Rates Major Countries

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Peru Peru
2 Chile USA
3 US Chile
4 Brazil Brazil
5 Argentina Spain
6 Spain Argentina
7 Colombia Belgium
8 Belgium Czech Republic
9 Czech Republic Colombia
10 France Netherlands
11 Netherlands France
12 Bolivia Bolivia

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Peru Peru
2 Belgium Belgium
3 Spain Spain
4 Brazil Brazil
5 Bolivia Bolivia
6 Chile Chile
7 Ecuador Ecuador
8 USA USA
9 Mexico Mexico
10 UK UK

 

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

We cringe every time we hear someone talking about herd immunity, usually in the context of it being a solution to our virus problem.  The problem, as we always say, but few acknowledge, is there is no guarantee that having been infected (or, for that matter, having been vaccinated) will generate any herd immunity at all, and for those who get some immunity, there’s no certainty that it will last more than perhaps only three months.

Here’s an interesting article that observes how 20% of people who have had Covid-19 do not appear to have developed any immunity at all.  That certainly makes herd immunity harder to reach.

While the US still agonizes over the question of allowing volunteers to be deliberately infected with virus to test, for sure, how well proposed vaccines work, the UK has allowed this type of challenge trial to proceed.  That’s a great move and will massively increase and accelerate the data being obtained from the trial.

We are slightly concerned though that they are using only healthy young people as volunteers and giving them very light viral loads.  Those types of people, and those light loads don’t pose much of a problem, so it isn’t easy to tell if not getting unwell is due to a vaccine or just because of the test subject’s youth and health and the light viral dose.

We’ve written before about the value of mouthwashing/gargling as a way to keep the virus out of our system – with hydrogen peroxide, and with Povidone iodine.  A new study just came out providing further confirmation of the value of this, and suggesting that the best of all mouthwashes would be Listerine Antiseptic.

Here’s an interesting article about a new program that identifies the most at-risk people; people who are most likely, if infected, to need hospitalization and possibly die.  That is good information to know, but there’s a worrying undercurrent.

The article quotes a person who seemed to be advocating the concept of “target shielding” – selectively “protecting” those people most at risk from getting infected.  Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it.

But, the problem is this.  How can target shielding be done, short of creating virtual imprisonment in an isolation wing for the shielded people?  A shielded person obviously wouldn’t be allowed to mix and mingle with other people, would even have such essential activities as shopping for food restricted.  Target shielding is an example of “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”, and for the people being shielded “for their own good”, the consequences would not be pleasant.

Another really bad idea has been exposed for the nonsense it is by New Zealand.  The airlines (and some destinations) continue to eagerly advocate for allowing people to travel if they get a Covid-test prior to travel to show they are “safe”.  As I’ve often pointed out, the timing of the tests would mean that probably only half of infected people would be detected, with the other half deemed “safe” and allowed onto a plane and into a country.

New Zealand, who has been allowing only ex-pat citizens to fly back to the country, reports that there have been 18 people, so far, who took a pre-flight test that showed them clear, but who tested positive for the virus during the mandatory quarantine upon arrival.

We don’t know how many people in total did pre-tests; we suspect not many.  There’s no reason or benefit to do so when flying to NZ because everyone gets the 14 day quarantine because the pre-testing is unreliable.  But we do know that 18 of the people who had been pre-tested had “false negative” results and brought the virus with them.

Finally, a puzzlement for us all, with two unexpected outcomes, each the opposite of what you’d expect.  I wrote on Sunday about an extensive trial showing that remdesivir gave almost no benefit to Covid sufferers.  This was particularly surprising because the trial tested remdesivir in the context it has been hailed as being most beneficial – being given to patients in later stages of an infection.

And now, the FDA responds, by announcing that remdesivir has been officially approved as a treatment for Covid-19.  Why?

At the same time, here is yet another overwhelming analysis of the benefits of hydroxychloroquine.  The FDA continues to ignore the steadily growing mountain of evidence in favor of HCQ.  Again, why?

Timings And Numbers

On Sunday, nine states had dropping numbers.  This continued on Monday, and encouragingly, Tuesday saw the number rise to 11.  But then, on Wednesday, we were back to nine, and today – we’re down to only four!

We mentioned above in our opening comments that one of the “big three” measures needed to control the virus spread is better testing and tracing.  We’re at the point where we’re getting millions more rapid tests, but it seems that the results of the tests can’t be collated or reported.  Why is this so hard?  Hasn’t anyone heard of computers?  The internet?

Here’s an encouraging report that fewer people are dying of the virus.  But its logic has an obscured omission.  We are told that fewer people, if hospitalized, are now dying of the virus.  But what we’re not told is whether the percentage of people with infections who are then being hospitalized has stayed the same, gone up, or gone down.  This omitted data point makes what we are told meaningless.

There was a report released, a week or so ago, claiming it to be astonishingly safe to fly.  This article points out some of the enormous limitations in the report.

But clearly Southwest Airlines was convinced.  They’ve announced they’ll stop blocking middle seats, because they’re expecting lots of people wanting to fly over the holiday season.

So, if I’ve got this right, rates of virus infections are ramping up to all time highs and are expected to go still higher.  There’s more chance of the person next to us having the virus now than almost any time before, and the chances will increase still further.  But Southwest says there’s no longer any need not to shove someone next to us, so close we’re touching, for hours at a time.

This is a good article, pointing out that due to the FDA only requiring a vaccine to be 50% effective means that herd immunity may be impossible to ever achieve.

It also hints to a possible further delay in when a vaccine might appear.  The article talks about “just after Christmas”.  That is a strange statement to make.  We know nothing is going to happen in the short week between Xmas and New Year, so why not ‘fess to the truth and say “early in the new year”.

Closings and Openings

Wales has announced a two week lockdown, requiring almost everyone to stay at home for two entire weeks, in an attempt to stop the rampant growth in new virus cases.  For sure, if the lockdown is broadly observed, it will have excellent results.

Not to be outdone, Ireland said that it would impose a not-quite-so-strict six week national lockdown.  If anything, that is unnecessarily long.

After their national lockdowns, both Wales and Ireland can be expected to be almost entirely virus free.  But in both cases, there’s a huge unanswered question.  What will they then do to keep the virus at a low level?  As soon as they allow relatively unrestricted entry into their regions/countries, the virus will come rushing back in, and if their populations aren’t still on a high level of social distancing/mask wearing/etc, it will quickly start spreading like wildfire again.

We’re interested to hear of their lockdown plans, but we’re much more curious to know what they’ll do after the lockdowns to make the inconveniences worthwhile.  Ireland is predicting 150,000 job losses (the country’s population is only 4.96 million – that is similar to losing 10 million jobs in the US).  That’s a huge impact on a small country – worthwhile if something lasting is gained, but a tragedy if a few weeks after the lockdown, the country is back suffering from high rates of new infections again.

What do you think the word “indefinitely” means?  Does it mean “a very long time”?  Does it mean “ongoing with no currently foreseeable end”?  Canada’s Prime Minister, Mr Trudeau, said that Canada will keep its border with the US closed indefinitely.

The next day he was asked how long indefinitely would be.  His answer was both surprisingly definite and also surprisingly short.  30 days.  Sure, that’s “a lifetime in politics” by some measures, but hardly an indefinite period of time.

Shortages

The latest looming shortage – nitrile gloves.  That doesn’t concern us.  Gloves are greatly overvalued and overused.  Gloves get contaminated as easily and quickly as hands do.  Hand washing is just as good or better than glove wearing in many cases.

Logic?  What Logic?

California’s Department of Redundancy Department insists on slowing things down for Californians.  For what I can only guess to be pre-election political virtue-signaling, California’s Governor has said he won’t allow any vaccines to be used in California until a hastily convened panel of Californian experts has evaluated and made its own independent decision on if the vaccine should be allowed.

While we continue to be very critical of the FDA, and while we’re also not rushing to be vaccinated, ourselves, we don’t think there’s any point whatsoever in a state choosing to second-guess the federal-level FDA process.

We’ve seen some incredibly stupid things said and done about the virus, but we’re going to nominate, today, a contender for the stupidest statement of all.  Some guy who gets paid obscene amounts of money for running around while throwing and catching a ball said about the virus and his risk of catching it :  I don’t think it’s going to enter this body…it’s a mutual respect.

Virus?  What Virus?

Here’s yet another story of a crazy airplane passenger who refuses to put a mask on, and eventually has to be removed from the flight while shouting insults and deliberately coughing/breathing on people.

The puzzlement, to me, has always been – how do such people get allowed onto the jetway without a mask, and then into the plane without a mask?

Talking about masks on planes, some eight months (and 228,000 US deaths) after the start of the virus scourge, the CDC has finally got the point of issuing a “strong recommendation” that people should wear masks on planes and other public transportation.

Medical

The CDC has not only finally decided to officially endorse mask wearing, it has also decided that catching the virus is easier than they earlier thought it was and have redefined their guideline for what constitutes at-risk encounters.  Previously it was spending 15 consecutive minutes with a person, now it is spending in total 15 minutes with another person during a 24 hour period.

Calculating risk is actually a complex calculation involving distance, time, and air quality, but becoming more restrictive is definitely an improvement.

Other

One of the problems with the social distancing requirement is ensuring that other people don’t accidentally get too close.  Here’s an interesting solution.

Are you looking forward to, or dreading, this year’s “holiday season” – the traditional family get-togethers at Thanksgiving and over the Christmas/New Year period?  And maybe also a, gulp, office party or two?

Family interactions in particular will be awkward.  How do you tell your parents or your children that you don’t want to hug and kiss them upon arriving, and that, actually, you’d like them to wear masks at all times?

The CDC’s advice?  Have people arrive two weeks early and quarantine themselves prior to the big family event.

We’ll give them a passing grade on that suggestion in terms of medical justification.  But in terms of social grace and practicality, that’s got to be an F.

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.

 

 

1 thought on “Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 22 October, 2020”

  1. lifegotinteresting

    I was shuddering the whole time I saw the Sturgis event going on. There are many ignorant people
    who seek to politicize this illness. The call it “just the flu”, or they say things like, “if you’re afraid, then
    stay home, but I’m going to live my life”. The virus doesn’t care if you live in a red state or a Blue state;
    it wants to get inside your body, rip your cells apart, and use them to reproduce itself. It literally wants
    to eat you from the inside. Lung cells, blood vessels, nerve cells, possibly even brain cells. You’re
    just fuel.

    Our country is based upon individuality and personal rights. But with those rights come individual
    responsibilities as well. Too many people think of this pandemic as someone else’s problem. Until
    people start considering the effects of their personal choices, we are going to have a serious
    problem.

    I get it. A young guy wants to go to a bar and party, so what. Well, what if he infects his
    girlfriend, who infects her friend, who works in a store, who infects me? And I die? You don’t
    care, you don’t know me. Well, how about if your girlfriend gets really sick? Or her Mother dies?
    Or your parents or grandparents? Now it starts to feel a bit more real, perhaps. You’re playing
    Russian Roulette, and you don’t know how many bullets are in the gun, or even where it’s
    pointing.

    If everyone tries to be thoughtful, and we try to help each other out, we all benefit. If we act
    selfish and thoughtlessly, we will all suffer, and maybe, just maybe, some of those might be people
    that we love. I don’t think the sacrifices that many of us are being asked to make are really that
    hard. Wear a decent mask. Social distance. Avoid large groups and crowded spaces. I don’t want
    to see large shutdowns and like you, I look forward to getting some form of normalcy sometime
    soon. But we can’t wish this away or pretend it doesn’t exist right now. We have to get through
    the Fall and Winter.

    There are MANY people who are risking their lives for us, every day. People who don’t earn much; servers, bartenders, retail store workers, grocery clerks. Not to mention the first responders and
    medical staff who are trying to help us. And so many that are suffering financially and emotionally.
    But of course, if you’re reading this, you likely already know all of this.

    I honestly think there should be more news stories about the heartbreaking things that are going
    on in the hospitals; maybe that would put human faces on this. I remember after 9/11, seeing all
    of the missing person flyers attached to walls and fences in New York. That really made the tragedy
    hit home for me. We’re having two 9/11’s a week right now.

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