COVID-19 Conversation: Updates and meanderings

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Spain has had a major surge in Covid-19 numbers. India has more people locked down right now than any other country. Trump intends to “open up” the economy by Easter. Fortunately he is powerless to do so. The best available information suggests that Covid-19 is not mutating much, suggesting that once a vaccine is developed, it can work widely and be more effective.

Things are bad in Iran. According to Arash Karami, “Iran’s confirmed corona cases is now 27,017 with 2,077 deaths. In the last 24 hours there have been 2,206 new cases and 143 deaths. In total 43 doctors and nurses have died from corona.”

Yesterday, March 24, is the day Trump told us we would have zero cases of Covid-19 in the US. The actual number was 53,478.

I hear chest freezers are flying off the shelves.

Covid-19 is Partisan in the US

Example of the effects of social distancing on a symptomatic indicator of Covid-19, suggesting it is working well at least in some place.
The default behavior of the Covid-19 virus has almost the same pattern of spread and increase everywhere — exponential increase with a fairly high exponent, for a virus.

How different societies or regions attempt to “flatten the curve” seems to result in very different specific outcomes, but in several areas there has been real success.

It is probably true in the US that the federal response has been pretty much perfect, from the point of view of the Virus. Trump is treating Covid-19 much like he treats Putin. “What can I do for you, sir?” But fortunately, locally, it does not work that way.

Broadly speaking (with too few exceptions) Republican executives are literally supporting the virus in this manner. They want it to spike. Democratic executives are ordering serious responses and it is working to varying degrees. In states with Republican governors, Democratic (usually) mayors are responding despite what the Governors are saying, and that is working locally.

So, yes, Covid-19 response is partisan, and one of the parties is acting like a Death Panel determining that the aged, infirmed, and the less privileged be sacrificed for the benefit of the economy. The other party is trying to help. Republicans vs. Democrats.

The response in Congress is also partisan, but the Republican response is so awful that Democrats are winning out of sheer shame on Republicans. Plus at the moment, more Republcian Senators are down with the virus than are Democrats, so that seems to shift the balance of power.

In my own neighborhood, I’ve seen the Deplorable Housewives of Minnesota (yes, that is a thing) congregating in groups at the grocery store and loudly yammering about Nancy Pelosi and how she hates America, spreading viruses onto each other as they wander like a pack of hapless Gollumoids through the produce section.

(In the past the Senate Republican leadership has always been against remote voting. Now that it is in McConnell’s interest to have remote voting, expect his situational ethics to resituate.)

Bad News

The mother of NBA player Karl-Anthony Towns is very ill with Covid-19, as of this writing. Amy Klobuchar’s husband is in the hospital on O2 and quite ill. Minnesota’s Lt. Governor’s brother has died of complications of Covid-19. A minor youth in Los Angeles has died. Prince Charles has been diagnosed positive. There is a long list of famous people from Jackson Brown to Natalie Horner to Prince Albert II diagnosed. Terrence McNally dies of Covid-19. These folks happen to be famous, and the tends of thousands of non-famous victims do not exist on a lower plane. But having famous names across the spectrum of how people know them and what people think of them is, perhaps, to this pandemic what a set of really bad hurricanes is to climate change, if you get my drift.

Watching an interview with a former official from the Louisiana Health Department last night, we got two reminders. One is that Mardi Gras happened at just the right time and place to be a major incubator of the disease, and probably accounts for a lot of sick people. The number of cases in NOLA has skyrocketed. The other reminder: Official Atlantic Hurricane season starts June 1st, but actual hurricanes or tropical storms can show up in May. Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard hospitals and communities night have an interesting year.

Here is an interesting history of the N95 mask. An outtake:

In the fall of 1910, a plague broke out across Manchuria… “It’s apocalyptic. … It kills 100% of those infected, no one survives… within 24 to 48 hours of the first symptoms,” …

What followed was a scientific arms race, to deduce what was causing the plague and stop it. “Both Russia and China want to prove themselves worthy and scientific enough, because that would lead to a claim of sovereignty,” …

The Chinese Imperial Court brought in a doctor named Lien-teh Wu to head its efforts. … after conducting an autopsy on one of the victims, Wu determined that the plague was not spread by fleas, as many suspected, but through the air.

Expanding upon the surgery masks he’d seen in the West, Wu developed a heartier mask from gauze and cotton, which wrapped securely around one’s face and added several layers of cloth to filter inhalations. His invention was a breakthrough, but some doctors still doubted its efficacy.

“There’s a famous incident. He’s confronted by a famous old hand in the region, a French doctor [Gérald Mesny] . . . and Wu explains … his theory that plague is pneumonic and airborne,…and the French guy humiliates him . . . and in very racist terms says, ‘What can we expect from a Chinaman?’ And to prove this point, [Mesny] goes and attends the sick in a plague hospital without wearing Wu’s mask, and he dies in two days with plague.”

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12 thoughts on “COVID-19 Conversation: Updates and meanderings

  1. Re — the picture from Milwaukee. There are some astounding pictures from Chicago — downtown, Grant Park, etc. — that show the same thing, a seemingly empty city.

    Locally: hospitals here in Kalamazoo, in Grand Rapids, and U of M have put out calls for donations of masks and gloves and any other items people or businessess have, since they aren’t getting enough from the government. Friends in New York and Georgia are telling me the same thing.

    Do we need any more evidence that trump and his “team” are fucking up the response royally? No, but it keeps coming.

    1. Some of our local schools are sending the nitrile gloves they would be using in science classes to local health care facilities.

  2. In CA the recommended social distancing to reduce the spread of the bug is finally being taken seriously- in my area anyway.

    My 14 day quarantine ended today so it seems I am likely clear of the bug- but who knows without a few diagnostic tests that aren’t going to be available for a few weeks in the best case scenario for my area given my specific health profile.

    The last PSPS in our area was called off just before it was implemented last fall so we happened to have a few N95 masks that my wife and I have used when going out the last couple of weeks.

    A paper indicated there are ways to safely reuse the masks-

    “Effects of Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) on N95 Respirator Filtration Performance and Structural Integrity”

    1. I would imagine masks could be made to be reused. I used to have reusable masks when working on furniture restoration. They weren’t very good (I think they were military surplus) but they could be dropped in the laundry. Basically, breathing in through felt and out through a rubber-ish check valve.

  3. There are several hundred [known] cases in South Africa, but I realize your remark about Sub-Saharan Africa is from Feb.

    1. Right. And, traditionally, at least in my experience, “sub Saharan Africa” does not include South Africa, if you are South African.

  4. A few meanderings from the (not very) United Kingdom:

    – Our rightwing government failed to act for weeks, issuing only ‘advice’ to stay at home.

    – Absent direct instruction to stay at home, avoid discretionary travel and milling around en mass in parks and street markets – oh, and going to the pub – lots of people did those things.

    – So when the inevitable spike in infections and deaths occurs, the government can (and will, betcha) blame the people rather than its own absence of clear direction on behaviour, enforced closure of businesses, etc.


    After many years of hollowing out the NHS, the rightwing Tory government (or perhaps Dominic Cummings) delayed action which could have prevented an overwhelming burden falling on the NHS. This could be seen – time will tell – as setting the NHS up to fail. Now why would anyone do that?

    It will be interesting to see if the NHS is subsequently privatised, with its ‘failure’ to cope with the CV epidemic as the reason – the ‘necessity’ – for selling it off to Trump.

    1. The “modern” right wing seems to have adopted reality denial as a core belief. If that only affected themselves I’s say “thinning out the herd” but, unfortunately their uninformed decisions affect others as well.

  5. I’ve been modelling Australia’s growth in cases for the last 10 days, and Im pretty certain that we had our point of inflection about 30 hours ago, from exponential to sigmoid. It’s a bit fraught trying to apply any sort of sigmoid-family curve to the data at this stage without access to both the finer details of contacts and movement of affected people, and to potential further mitigation measures, but a simplistic logistic eyeballing would suggest that Australia will start to plateau in about 2-3 weeks at around 4,500 cases give or take a few hundred.

    It’s good news in some ways, however the too-slow but ever-tightening control measures are hurting the economy and I fear a premature easing. And of course there may be enough momentum in the infection rate that the national capacity of the health system to respond may be exceeded, in which case there are going to be deadly choices to be made…

    If any good comes of this, it might be that the world finally confronts the need to similarly act with urgency (and earlier) on climate change. Oh, and to better prepare for the next few pandemics after COVID-19…

    1. I modeled things here (USA) with a simple SIR model. The results were clear: if we don’t continue with the steps we’re beginning to take as a nation, we’re royally fucked.

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