For a change, let’s start off with some good news this week.
There’s been something happening that we’ve been quietly watching and wondering when to comment on. What started off as a possible short term anomaly has continued unabated every day since 11 January – the world-wide total of new reported virus cases has been dropping.
As you can see, the rate of fall is steady and substantial. The international drop in new cases is matched by a drop in US cases, too.
The US seven day moving average also peaked on 11 Jan and has been dropping – this is not altogether surprising because the US numbers, by themselves, make up a huge share of the total world numbers each day.
Astonishingly (and gratifyingly), at the end of Thursday 4 Feb, US new cases are being reported at a rate almost exactly half of those on 11 Jan.
This of course raises the question of why they are falling so quickly, here and most other countries too. Let’s first think about things that are not contributing factors :
Herd Immunity – It is increasingly seeming that acquired immunity is very weak after having had the virus. Indeed, the CDC is saying that you should still be vaccinated, even if you previously fought off an infection. Even if post-infection immunity were a factor, with only 8.2% of the country having had the virus, that’s so far away from the 70% or more that is needed for herd immunity as to be a non-event. It is possible – probable – we have massively under-counted total virus cases, but even if we double this to 16.5%, we’re still so far away from an impactful level as to be totally irrelevant.
Some people claim it is all about herd immunity. I totally disagree, not only for the three reasons cited above, but also because herd immunity would be a more gently impacting factor, not a sudden thing that appears from nowhere like whatever this mysterious thing is.
Vaccinations – The US is now the third best country in the world for speed of vaccinating. Israel doesn’t appear on this chart because it is “off the chart” high – 60% of the Israeli population have received one dose. But the US total of 10.2% of people having had at least one dose represents perhaps only maybe 2% or 3% of the population receiving both doses and now with some immunity, with the vaccines not necessarily preventing a person from being infected anyway, just preventing them from having an infection become severe or fatal.
Masks and Social Distancing – I don’t know about where you live, but here where I live, there’s been little difference in social distancing over the last month, and as mentioned last week, in some parts of the country there’s very little mask-wearing or social-distancing at all. These two charts, above, show only an imperceptible rise in overall mask use (from 62% on 1 Jan to 63% on 30 Jan) and a slight drop in social distancing (from 17% less than “normal” to 21% less).
Weather – We’re moving into colder wintry weather, in theory, a great time for virus transmission.
So, what has happened to cause this plunge in new cases?
The situation is even more pronounced in India.
Similar possible – or should I say, impossible – explanations apply there, too. As you can see from the chart, India’s daily new case numbers peaked way back on 17 September and are currently 1/8th of the level they were back then. India’s current average of 11,794 cases a day has to also be viewed alongside their enormous population of 1.39 billion. That would be the same as the US reporting 2,821 a day. Our current 7 day average is 129,894 – 46 times higher than India.
India seems to have all the social and climactic conditions that would be ideal for rapid spread and growth in new cases, but that never happened. India’s situation is all the more surprising because their case numbers never went very high in the first place, and currently, their total reported cases is less than one percent of the population (0.78%) which is less than one-tenth the total cases in the US. Details here.
We need to understand why case numbers are dropping, everywhere, and why countries such as India never had as severe an infection rate as we have.
You know the “opposition” – whoever and whatever they are – are getting desperate when they start censoring and blocking factual positive reports about ivermectin. Alas, as this article mentions, that is what is now starting to happen.
There’s something very wrong when credentialed medical professionals are being prevented from sharing their factual observations by social media sites, and by people on them who probably wouldn’t recognize a medical textbook if one fell off a shelf and hit them on the head.
Why are sites (hello, Facebook!) now choosing to stop us from learning about this wonder-drug, the discovery of which earned its discoverer a Nobel Prize?
Meanwhile, here are results of a double-blind placebo-controlled study in Bulgaria of ivermectin. It showed positive outcomes from ivermectin use, although the study size was too small to be compellingly definitive.
I do wonder what is the point of going to the bother of a full-on formal trial, but not having enough people enrolled in it to ensure a meaningful result. It is a bit like saying “I’m going to see how fast my car can drive 50 laps nonstop on the racing circuit” but only putting enough fuel in the tank for 50 laps.
There’s also something very strange going on at NIH, with their secret panels of “experts” who adjudicate on issues such as if ivermectin should be considered as a potential care-solution for Covid or not. This article struggles to understand the secrecy behind NIH’s actions (but can’t!).
Wouldn’t public health decisions like this be best done in public, and accountably? Presumably there is an articulable and scientific basis for every decision made, don’t we deserve to know the basis for each decision.
Oh, the “a” word. Accountability. Here’s a great article and linked Op Ed about what happens when experts fail – what consequences and sanctions the “experts” suffer. But you can skip reading it (although you really should) because you can probably guess the answer. Just like “too big to fail” protects banks from their mistakes and allows them to repeat them, the same concept and zero accountability seems to often be enjoyed by “experts”, no matter how colossal their errors.
In that context, I’d mentioned on Sunday about the CDC’s failed $44+ million project, taking over six months, to build a vaccination tracking system. Its failure is so severe that other organizations are now being forced to build their own alternate systems. Except, unlike the CDC, these other systems are being created in as little as a single afternoon, and at zero external cost. As I asked on Sunday, who at the CDC is losing their job over this fiasco? The answer continues to be “no-one”.
Do you remember, a few weeks ago, when Britain suffered from mass-insanity and their “experts” suddenly started saying “there’s no need to bother about a second vaccination, and if you really do want to have a second vaccination, it doesn’t matter which vaccine you use for your second vaccination”? Both those statements were shouted down by anyone with a brain, and have been slightly modified subsequently.
In now a classic example of a Mad Queen/Alice in Wonderland “verdict first, trial second”, Britain is now commencing a trial to see if the idea of mixing and matching vaccines is valid or not. My question has to be – why was the decision made before the trial had even started?
The trial itself seems predestined to be almost useless. Although scheduled to run for an encouraging 13 months, it will include only about 800 test subjects, while testing a number of different combinations (so smaller sample sizes for each tested scenario). Those numbers will very likely prove to be too small to allow for statistically meaningful outcomes.
But wait, there’s more. These same 800 people are also planned to be used to test the vaccine’s effectiveness against some 4,000 different variants of the virus. While it isn’t exactly relevant to compare the 800 people to the 4,000 variants, it sure does make 800 seem like an even smaller number than it did when merely viewed in the context of testing the “mix and match” theory.
What’s up with the Brits?
One last opening comment. The WHO investigative team in China says it has been having “very frank” discussions with Chinese scientists about the origins of the virus. Am I the only person who considers this entire “investigation” to be nothing other than a carefully orchestrated whitewash that will end up absolving China of any blame at all for anything (and everything) at all, other than perhaps a few very minor careful comments to show how the investigation truly was “fully neutral”.
My cynicism is massively increased by the claim of frank discussions. A frank discussion about the virus, in China, strikes me as about as likely as a non-partisan vote in the second Trump impeachment. One also has to wonder what the topics of the frank discussions are. The WHO team leader has already dismissed the more inconvenient and embarrassing-to-China theories/probabilities about what happened as irrational and saying the investigators would not waste time chasing the “wildest claims”.
No changes in US rankings this week. Aruba has taken tenth place on the small country list from Liechtenstein. A swap in positions between Spain and Portugal on the major country list, and on the death list, Portugal shot up from 10th place to 6th place.
US Best and Worst States
|A week ago||Now||A week ago||Now|
|1 Best||HI (18,039)||HI (18,495)||VT (276)||VT (290)|
|2||VT (18,467)||VT (20,037)||HI (287)||HI (294)|
|5||WA (40,881)||WA (42,205)||OR (458)||OR (474)|
|47||TN (105,076)||TN (107,827)||MS (1,998)||MS (2,077)|
|48||UT (106,815)||UT (109,569)||RI (2,024)||RI (2,085)|
|49||RI (107,380)||RI (110,719)||MA (2,082)||MA (2,145)|
|50||SD (121,849)||SD (123,000)||NY (2,221)||NY (2,284)|
|51 Worst||ND (127,686)||ND (128,643)||NJ (2,398)||NJ (2,454)|
Top Case Rates Minor Countries (cases per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Andorra (126,447)||Andorra (131,072)|
|2||Gibraltar (121,182)||Gibraltar (123,586)|
|4||San Marino||San Marino|
|8||Israel (68,376)||Israel (73,456)|
|9||Lithuania (66,727)||Lithuania (68,515)|
|10||Lichtenstein (64,806)||Aruba (66,650)|
Top Case Rates Major Countries (cases per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Czech Republic (89,983)||Czech Republic (94,521)|
|2||USA (79,303)||USA (82,110)|
|3||Portugal (67,330)||Portugal (73,570)|
|4||Belgium (60,218)||Spain (62,938)|
|5||Spain (59,710)||Belgium (61,653)|
|7||Sweden (55,700)||Sweden (57,678)|
|8||UK (54,980)||UK (57,159)|
|12||Italy (41,640)||Italy (42,998)|
Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Belgium (1,802)||Belgium (1,826)|
|2||UK (1,515)||UK (1,619)|
|3||Czech Rep (1,487)||Czech Rep (1,569)|
|4||Italy (1,446)||Italy (1,494)|
|5||USA (1,336)||USA (1,406)|
|6||Spain (1,236)||Portugal (1,325)|
|7||Peru (1,218)||Spain (1,300)|
|8||Mexico (1,184)||Peru (1,256)|
|9||France (1,144)||Mexico (1,243)|
|10||Portugal (1,140)||France (1,193)|
The rest of this newsletter is for the very kind Travel Insider Supporters – it is their support that makes all of this possible, and it seems fair they get additional material in return. If you’re not yet a Supporter, please consider becoming one, and get instant access to the rest of the Diary Entries – today and in the past, and much extra content on other parts of the website too.
If you’re a contributor, you should make sure you’re logged in to the website, and when you are, you’ll see the purple text and balance of the newsletter below on the website. If you’re not logged in, or reading this via email, you need to log in on the website first.
Items below include the CDC starting to define what constitutes an acceptable and unacceptable mask, a look at problems in the US vaccination program, another promising anti-viral treatment, overpriced useless virus tests, the changing nature of the pandemic, being simultaneously infected with two different virus strains, vaccination requirements if you’ve already had the virus, the Russian vaccine’s stage three trial is giving robust results (which the UK AstraZeneca trial continues to limp from disappointment to disappointment), and shortages of vaccine vials and syringes (why did we not anticipate this).
SUPPORTER ONLY CONTENT
END OF SUPPORTER ONLY CONTENT
These days it seems to many things end up falling victim to conspiracy theorists and conspiracy theories. Here’s a fascinating example of a nurse who fainted immediately after being injected with the vaccine, and now some vocal groups of people believe she is dead, even though she is apparently 100% alive.
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.
3 thoughts on “Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 4 February, 2021”
A couple of random thoughts on the rates going down.
Of course anything that is exponential on the way up is exponential on the way down. So small changes get amplified.
The odds of contracting the virus go up with more exposure to the virus and, for lack of a better word, the concentration of the exposure (so higher if an inflected person is talking in your face various sitting across the room).
Even January we have the retail ‘hangover’. After the holiday shopping rather than shopping activity returning to normal, it is much less. So for employees hours are cut at stores (so less time to interact with customers), less customers, less peers. For customers, less time in stores. Less likely to go someplace special for the Christmas roast, the wine specialty store, etc. So lower level of interactions.
There less excuses to have “just one” get together of family or friends because of the holidays. And, unfortunately, some larger parties too (see, for example, the list of parties at the White House).
Sidebar: Let’s hope the Super Bowl isn’t an excuse to have a get together.
While cold weather forces people in doors; really cold and/or lots of snow tend to reduce people’s mobility. (Having 14″ of snow on the ground and another 3-6″ forecast for today, I’m not going anywhere!).
And the interesting one. Assuming the herd immunity rate is around 16%. What would be the impact if 2/3rd of the 16% are people in the high risk behavior group (no masks, limited social distancing, go many places) and only 1/3rd are in the low risk behavior group. What is the impact of faster growing immunity in the group most likely to be super spreaders?
I have no clue how to model the paragraph above. But here’s one interesting anecdotal example. A co-worker has been playing poker, mask less, weekly for every. Generally the same group of 8 +/- a person or two each week. Finally one gets sick 2 days after a game and tests positive for Covid. None of the others test positive. So were 7 people just lucky or had most of them already had asymptotic Covid already. Odds are much higher for the asymptomatic reason than a concentration of random good luck. Judging from the wider behavior of the one I know, their odds of being exposed are high.
I do hope that if the positive trend continues, people don’t relax and enable yet another uptick.
David, This is one of your best posts on Covid.
Many of us realized some time ago that the CCP was the real villain in this story and they are still going to the usual extreme lengths to direct blame elsewhere. I think the release of the virus was due to outstanding incompetence at the Wuhan lab. Similar incompetence will probably be what saves the western world from ultimate CCP domination.
As to the current trends in worldwide cases and if we are really seeing “herd” immunity, I keep remembering what an old Army virologist told me in 1975 what had stopped the 1918 flu epidemic; 1/3 virus survival, 1/3 treatment with convalescent serum and 1/3 existing immunity due to similar viral infections (the infamous T-cell factor). T-cell immunity analysis is time consuming and expensive so I don’t think we really know the degree that it is at work in this Covid outbreak.
I’m 70 years old and have been exposed to Covid at least 3 times that I know of with no ill effect. I know these are famous “last words” but I would certainly like to know what my T-cell status is.
Anyway, keep thinking outside the box and the good writing.
Thanks for your kind comments.
The true story – at least, as true as it will probably ever get – of the virus release is probably best chronicled in this excellent article
It will be interesting to see how far the eventual WHO report/whitewash diverges.
I’m glad you’ve avoided consequences from your Covid exposures to date. But it is a bit like playing Russian roulette – I’d counsel continued caution!