Covid-19 Diary : Sunday 18 April, 2021

 

You may have heard of how a stunning 47 passengers on an A321 flight from India to Hong Kong all tested positive for Covid, 12 days into their Hong Kong quarantine.  They had to show a negative test before boarding the plane in New Delhi, and then were tested (negative) upon arrival in HKG, and no-one showed positive with those two tests.  They had a scheduled further test on day 12 of their quarantine, and it was then that people showed positive (or slightly earlier in some cases where people become obviously unwell).

While it is not impossible that people caught the infection on the flight – or perhaps, one of each couple/family caught the infection on the flight then passed it to the other people they were quarantined together with subsequently – it is also far from the only explanation.  So, don’t rush to judgment just yet.

We don’t know how or where these people became infected.  It could have been prior to the flight (it can take four or five days for an infection to be detected by a test), they might have been infected on the flight, it might be a bad batch of tests, or they might have caught it during their quarantine.  On the other hand, the airline has had some not well defined problems with Covid-related matters in the recent past and was given a short two week ban from operating flights to Hong Kong (that expires tomorrow/Monday).

It is interesting to note that the global rate of new Covid cases reported each day is now higher than it has ever been, even though, so far, almost 900 million doses of the vaccine have been dispensed.  Of course, the world population is 7.85 billion, and of those 900 million doses, most are the first of two doses, so the actual number of completely or even partially vaccinated people is less than 900 million.

We’re somewhat more fortunate here in the US.  Our drop in Jan/Feb was followed by a gentle rather than steep rise, and the last four days have seen dropping numbers again, including a massive 3% drop in the seven day average today.  Let’s hope that trend continues, and certainly in the US, our vaccination numbers must be starting to have an effect – we’ve now had 206 million doses dispensed (see below for further discussion on vaccination rates).

However, whether we look at the massive increase in world cases, or the more modest increase in the US, both are a salient reminder that our euphoria at the beginning of the year and the rush to attribute a strange sudden sharp drop in cases to early vaccinations was misplaced (as I said at the time).

Indeed, I’ll go further, and suggest that the virus will be part of the world for years to come, albeit hopefully in a massively less impactful form.  We already have Moderna talking about bringing out a booster dose – we risk being in the terrible situation where as fast as the world vaccinates, it still doesn’t get ahead of itself due to the need for new vaccines for new variants and booster shots and so on.

We’re also slowly discovering that when a vaccine is 90% effective, that still means 10% of vaccinated people will get the virus.  This seems to have surprised some people, and it is true that many other vaccines are generally closer to 100% effective.

My point in this is to observe that we still need effective treatments – treatments for unlucky people who have been vaccinated but still get infected, treatments for people who haven’t yet had a chance to be vaccinated, and treatments for people who don’t want to be vaccinated.  Plus also treatments in case new versions of the virus are not controlled by the vaccines we’re presently using – as increasingly seems to be possible.

So why are most governments in the world and their health care departments continuing to ignore ivermectin and other low-cost, safe, effective treatments?  Canada now has a public petition underway with people signing it, calling the government to authorize ivermectin treatment.

As you can see, Canada’s case rate continues to move ahead of the US case rate, an unheard of situation until a couple of weeks ago.  Let’s hope they get access to ivermectin soon (and that we do, too!).

Current Numbers

A reminder that on Thursday I added a new table, showing the countries with the most active rates of infection over the last week.  Because this is new, I don’t yet have a value for one week prior, but am showing Thursday’s numbers today, and from the next diary entry forwards, I’ll be able to show proper week ago data as well as current data.

A change in the US best states – Maine dropped one place and Oregon moved up one.  There were no changes in the death rankings in the US.

Israel, almost completely vaccinated, moved down one place in the minor country list.

The Netherlands moved up two places in the major country list, and UK is now at the very bottom of that list.

Portugal dropped two places on the death list, and Mexico dropped off, being replaced by Poland.  The US and Brazil are almost exactly the same on the death rate list, and it is likely Brazil will move ahead by Thursday.

Although the recent new case activity table only had three days of data between the Thursday report and today’s report, it still showed some major jumps in positions.  This seems to be an interesting table to watch into the future.  I could also add a “countries with the lowest rates of new cases” table, but it wouldn’t be so interesting – there are nine countries all with rates of new cases below 1 per million people in the last seven days.

US Best and Worst States

Rank Cases/Million Deaths/Million
A week ago Now A week ago Now
1 Best HI (21,736) HI (22,164) HI (333) HI (335)
2 VT VT VT VT
3 ME OR AK AK
4 OR ME ME (558) ME
5 WA (49,683) WA (50,914) OR (579) OR (583)
47 UT (121,681) UT (122,508) MS (2,384) MS (2,403)
48 IA (122,265) IA RI (2,490) RI
49 RI RI MA (2,523) MA
50 SD SD NY (2,642) NY
51 Worst ND (137,449) ND (138,773) NJ (2,800) NJ (2,831)

 

Top Case Rates Minor Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Andorra (162,162) Andorra (165,516)
2 Montenegro (150,079) Montenegro (152,120)
3 San Marino (145,820) San Marino
4 Gibraltar (126,978) Gibraltar (127,394)
5 Slovenia Slovenia
6 Luxembourg Luxembourg
7 Aruba Aruba
8 St Barth (91,616) St Barth
9 Israel Bahrain (93,878)
10 Bahrain (89,562) Israel (91,007)

 

Top Case Rates Major Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (147,345) Czech Republic (149,362)
2 USA (95,993) USA (97,443)
3 Sweden (84,488) Sweden (88,689)
4 Portugal Netherlands
5 Belgium Portugal
6 Netherlands Belgium
7 France France
8 Spain Spain
9 Poland (68,086) Poland
10 Jordan (64,749) Jordan
11 UK (64,108) Brazil (65,227)
12 Brazil (63,081) UK (64,366)

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (2,593) Czech Republic (2,650)
2 Belgium (2,015) Belgium (2,039)
3 Italy (1,892) Italy (1,936)
4 UK (1,864) UK (1,867)
5 USA (1,732) USA (1,747)
6 Portugal (1,663) Brazil (1,747)
7 Brazil (1,653) Peru (1,717)
8 Peru (1,647) Portugal (1,666)
9 Spain (1,632) Spain (1,646)
10 Mexico (1,610) Poland (1,640)

 

Top Rates in New Cases Reported in the Last Week (new cases per million)

Rank (Thursday) Today
1 Uruguay  7,418 Uruguay  5,771
2 Bermuda  7,037 Bermuda  5,637
3 Curacao  6,330 Seychelles 4,978
4 Turkey  4,669 Turkey  4,931
5 Bahrain  4,498 Bahrain  4,375
6 Hungary  3,993 Cyprus  3,915
7 France  3,802 Croatia  3,739
8 Poland  3,774 Argentina  3,546
9 Seychelles  3,744 France  3,530
10 Croatia  3,705 Andorra  3,361
11 Sweden  3,459 Curacao  3,201
12 Argentina  3,414 Hungary  3,147

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

I closed out the previous section, above, talking about countries with very low rates of new cases.  How low is sufficiently low to be able to say the virus has been conquered?

Well, clearly, sustaining a zero new cases count is the ideal and absolute measure of winning that battle.  But some public health officials are talking about getting new cases down to such a low level that its no longer worth bothering about.  Personally, I think that’s a crazy/stupid/dangerous notion.  Remember that everywhere in the world except China, little more than a year ago, were reporting zero cases a day, and now look what is happening – an average of 750,000 new cases every day.  There is no such thing as a safe low level.

I’ve seen a suggestion that one new case per million people per day is acceptable, and part of the logic of allowing a very small number like that is it allows for a massive allocation of resources to track and trace any new case and the people they might have infected and to stamp out the new infection before it runs away, uncontrolled.  So maybe that is okay – assuming the country in question truly does have an effective track/trace program.

If we use that number – 1/million/day – then 22 countries currently qualify.  The closest to any western countries would be New Zealand and Australia.

Our much loved Dr Fauci has a slightly different target – 10,000 new cases a day, a number which seems extraordinarily high, a number we’ve not been below in 13 months (we’re at almost 70,000 a day at present).

Fauci’s target translates to 30/million; or 210/million for a week.  At present, for the last week, 89 countries had rates below 210/million, including Mexico, Israel, and Hong Kong, but again, no “western” first world countries.

The US rate for last week?  1,435.  So we need to drop our new case count seven-fold.

A gym in Quebec City that refused to close has now been linked to at least 580 Covid infections and one death (so far).  We don’t understand how it is that a gym (or any other business) can outright refuse to observe a lockdown order, and now the results of that civil disobedience are plain for all to see, why is the gym owner not in prison awaiting a trial for manslaughter?

Manslaughter is “the unintended death of someone as a result of an illegal act” so seems like the appropriate charge to level on the gym owner, although I’m not sure what the trial outcome would be, because for sure, there was contributory negligence on the part of the person now dead.

It is another example of the strange and apparently global lack of culpability in response to the Covid outbreak.  Not only do we have WHO trying to tell us that black is white when they stoutly maintain the virus didn’t originate in China, but no-one, in any country, seems to be held liable for any of the now over 3 million deaths worldwide, even though there are bad decisions a-plenty that have caused the outbreak to become as extended and severe as it now is and continues to be.

We were pleased to see the Biden administration is allocating $1.7 billion to track the spread of the growing number of coronavirus variants.  This will certainly aid our comprehension of the changing nature of the threat in terms of which variants are most commonplace, and what new variants are continuing to appear.

But could he please spend a few more dollars to approve ivermectin and other low-cost off-the-shelf drugs to treat the virus in all its variant forms.

Here’s an article that repeats something that needs to be remembered and not overlooked – getting the virus doesn’t give you long lasting immunity.  In other words, even if you’ve had the virus already, you should still be vaccinated.

Vaccine News

I was disappointed to read that Johnson & Johnson had asked the other vaccine makers to coordinate on research into blood clotting issues.  That seemed like a great idea.  But both Pfizer and Moderna refused.  Don’t ever believe, for a minute, that big Pharma has any degree of altruism or desire to “optimize the common good” driving what it does and how it does it.

Indeed, in that context, what must be the stupidest question of the week was this question, asking if Pfizer and Moderna will profit from providing booster doses.  It does raise an interesting point, though – at present, there is no commercial motivation to make vaccines longer lasting or broader spectrum.

This is an interesting article that sings the praises of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA type of vaccine, while dissing the Johnson & Johnson adenovirus type vaccine.  What is particularly interesting is that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines sometimes bring about extreme allergy reactions – so quickly and so severely that all people are being asked to wait 15 – 30 minutes after being vaccinated before leaving the vaccination site, but the vaccines are deemed totally safe, while the one in a million blood clotting risk in the J&J vaccine is deemed so risky as to suspend the use of the vaccine entirely.

That sure seems to me like a double standard, just like the double standard that the “at risk” group of people – women between 18 – 48 – are allowed to take oral contraceptives that are 1,000 times more likely to cause clotting, while now everyone, including not-at risk women and all men, are not allowed to take the J&J vaccine while the clotting risk is being “studied”.

Not all countries are as stupid as the US, however.  Poland is using the J&J vaccine, saying the benefits outweigh the risks.  Yes!  How refreshing to see some countries can do this simple balancing risks and benefits and come up with the right answer.

Talking about common sense; well, actually, to totally change the subject, let’s turn to Dr Fauci again.  He was asked about the delay in reauthorizing the J&J vaccine for use, something he’d earlier told us would take a couple of days at the most to do.  He couldn’t answer the question – and to be fair, that is hardly his fault.  He couldn’t answer the question, because there is no conceivable answer or reason for the delay in allowing J&J vaccinations to resume.

Timings And Numbers

This is an interesting and encouraging table.  The US, today, broke through the 25% point where now one quarter of the country has been fully vaccinated.  In that respect, we are way ahead of all the other countries/regions shown, although Israel is showing 57% vaccinated.

Keep in mind though that herd immunity probably requires way more than 50% vaccinated, and perhaps even more than 75% vaccinated.  So we’ve a way to go yet, but with the current rate of vaccination continuing, “the end is in sight”, sort of.  But, once we reach the “end”, it seems we’ll be right at the point where we need to start thinking of booster shots…..

Closings and Openings

A major re-opening announcement this last week was from Nevada.  They will fully reopen on 1 June.  That’s got to be “good news” for Vegas – but only if it doesn’t result in a rise in new case numbers, of course.  Vegas has the potential to become a sort of “stealth super-spreader” – most people who visit Vegas are not from NV, but from all around the country, and they’ll be back in their home cities and states before they start to feel any infection, so if there are outbreaks in Vegas, they could spread all over the country before anyone realizes what is happening.

That is of course also a reason why we need a national policy, not a series of uncoordinated state by state policies.

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

 

 

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