Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 15 April, 2021

 

The US passed through another “milestone” on Monday, when we broke through 32 million people who have now officially been recorded as having had the virus.  The real number is of course much higher, and might be anywhere from 50 – 75 million.

The real figure to focus on is somewhat more accurately determined (although even that is surprisingly vague and subjective) – the number of people who have died from the virus so far.  The official tally at present is 578,993.

That is more than the total number of Americans who died in all wars in the last 100 years – the major ones being World War 2 (405,399), the Korean War (36,516), the Vietnam War (58,209), and “the War on Terror including the Gulf War, Iraq War, and Afghanistan War (7,007 so far)” – a total of 507,131 deaths, plus a few more thousand from miscellaneous other “police actions” around the world.

One of the notable things in wars is that generals are accountable, and when they make big mistakes that result in people being killed, they’re quickly removed from command.

The mistakes our public health officials are making continue in a steady stream, as do each day’s new death counts (895 today).  I recount the latest blunder in a separate article just now published – please see “Out of “An Abundance of Caution”, the FDA and CDC Increases Our Risk of Dying from Covid“.  But whereas bad generals are quickly replaced before more troops needlessly die, the number of senior executives who have lost their jobs for appalling ineptitude resulting in the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, and the trillions of dollars of economic damage inflicted on the survivors, seems to remain stubbornly at zero.

Even now, over a year into fighting this virus, our officials are only slowly and reluctantly starting to admit their mistakes, for example, the CDC is now starting to concede that the initial focus on frenetic cleaning of surfaces was never necessary.

You might think “what’s the harm in some extra cleaning, better safe than sorry”, but there is a huge harm.  The CDC’s wrong call, based on ridiculous studies, the major one of which is 100 years out of date, shifted the focus of preventative measures away from the key risk – airborne virus particles – and to a non-risk matter, surfaces.  If businesses had attacked the issue of air cleanliness right from the start, how many lives would have been saved?  How many businesses would have been able to open sooner and safer than has been the case?

And at present, while public health leaders fret about and over-react as a result of what might be a less-than-normal (rather than more-than-normal) rate of blood clotting (see my article linked above) they don’t pause to think about the consequential damage of this utterly wrong pause in dispensing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – an extension of the time it takes to build up our vaccinated numbers, many more people who will now die from the virus than would have been at risk of blood clots, and more chance for the virus to continue mutating.  Here’s a rather technical discussion on that subject.  There’s also the irony that the risk of blood clots (and dying from them) as a result of suffering a Covid infection is said to be 8 – 10 times higher than the almost non-existent risk of blood clots from the J&J vaccine.

We should point out that this inability to do the right thing is not just a problem of our public health officials.  One of the most respected medical journals in the world is similarly afflicted.  The Journal of the American Medical Association published, a couple of months ago, a study suggesting ivermectin was not particularly helpful.  It was a terribly flawed study, and all the more terrible because its flaws were obvious to anyone who took the trouble to look at the article and attempt to understand it.  The article should never have appeared in a respectable peer-reviewed magazine.

But while JAMA was willing to publish the study article, it is now refusing to publish a letter signed by dozens of doctors – members of the American Medical Association and subscribers to the JAMA in large part – criticizing the study.

Things are strangely and totally off the rails when the JAMA refuses to even allow its credentialed members, writing en masse in a large group, to criticize its published study.  As is so often the case, one can only wonder why this is so, and it is again a struggle to avoid the obvious conclusion – that the kindness and partiality, at all levels, to expensive new drugs developed by large pharmaceutical companies with huge marketing and lobbying budgets, is influencing how existing low-cost drugs are viewed and evaluated.

Current Numbers

I’ve added a new table to the tables below.  This one shows the countries (of any size) with the most active rates of reported new cases over the last week.  That is a more volatile and “current” number than the cumulative data reported in the other tables, which doesn’t change so much from week to week.

Talking about not changing much, there were no changes in ranking for the US states.

The minor countries saw Israel drop one more place down to tenth, probably due to their high vaccination rate.  They’ll likely be off the list entirely next week.

In the major country table, the UK dropped two more places and is now at the bottom (12th) place.  Another week may likely see if off the list entirely, although the last few days have seen stable daily new case numbers, rather than dropping further.  But with a mere 2660 new cases a day (that would be like the US reporting about 13,500 cases a day instead of its current average of 72,000) the UK is doing exceedingly well at present.

Some changes in the death rate table, with Brazil rising a terrible three places.

US Best and Worst States

Rank Cases/Million Deaths/Million
A week ago Now A week ago Now
1 Best HI (21,531) HI (21,948) HI (332) HI (334)
2 VT VT VT (369) VT
3 ME ME AK AK
4 OR OR ME (556) ME
5 WA (49,341) WA (50,467) OR (578) OR (582)
47 UT (121,308) UT (122,158) MS (2,380) MS (2,395)
48 IA (121,761) IA (122,941) RI (2,488) RI (2,498)
49 RI RI MA (2,520) MA (2,529)
50 SD (134,738) SD (136,338) NY (2,631) NY (2,656)
51 Worst ND (136,949) ND (138,283) NJ (2,790) NJ (2,821)

 

Top Case Rates Minor Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Andorra (160,406) Andorra (163,399)
2 Montenegro (148,960) Montenegro
3 San Marino San Marino
4 Gibraltar (126,948) Gibraltar (127,364)
5 Slovenia Slovenia  (110,606)
6 Luxembourg Luxembourg
7 Aruba Aruba
8 St Barth St Barth
9 Israel (90,837) Bahrain (92,087)
10 Bahrain (87,647) Israel (90,970)

 

Top Case Rates Major Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (146,196) Czech Republic (148,615)
2 USA (95,392) USA (96,905)
3 Sweden (83,726) Sweden (87,939)
4 Portugal (81,153) Portugal (81,524)
5 Belgium Belgium
6 Netherlands Netherlands
7 France France
8 Spain Spain
9 Poland (66,099) Poland (69,875)
10 UK (64,118) Jordan (66,046)
11 Jordan (63,755) Brazil (64,366)
12 Brazil (62,167) UK (62,268)

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Rep (2,561) Czech Rep (2,632)
2 Belgium (2,004) Belgium (2,032)
3 Italy (1,869) Italy (1,920)
4 UK (1,863) UK (1,866)
5 USA (1,726) USA (1,741)
6 Portugal (1,661) Brazil (1,712)
7 Spain (1,629) Peru (1,685)
8 Peru (1,620) Portugal (1,664)
9 Brazil (1,616) Spain (1,644)
10 Mexico (1,586) Mexico (1,625)

 

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

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Uruguay  7,418
2 Bermuda  7,037
3 Curacao  6,330
4 Turkey  4,669
5 Bahrain  4,498
6 Hungary  3,993
7 France  3,802
8 Poland  3,774
9 Seychelles  3,744
10 Croatia  3,705
11 Sweden  3,459
12 Argentina  3,414

 

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

Have you noticed that I often write about new promising drugs/treatments for Covid infections, but the official policy remains, unchanged, that if you get a Covid infection, you should stay at home, keep away from others, drink plenty of liquids, but otherwise do nothing?

What happens?  How do all these new treatments – usually being repurposings of drugs that are already approved as safe – get lost in the system?  If we are to believe the official statement, we’re more than a year into this pandemic and not a single drug has been found that is suitable for early treatment.

Of course, that’s a beyond nonsensical situation.  The two strongest contenders – hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin – each have regularly and reliably demonstrated the potential to more than halve mortality rates – currently HCQ is showing as bringing about a 65% improvement when used as an early-case treatment and IVM is giving an 81% improvement if used as an early treatment.

Does that mean that as many as 500,000 of the 579,000 Americans who have died from the virus so far could have been spared?  Has official inaction and bias killed half a million Americans so far?

I’ll let you answer that for yourself, but from where I’m observing, it seems hard not to conclude this to exactly be the case.

Two more new drugs with potential this week.  An asthma drug – budesonide – that we’ve seen mentioned regularly over the last 3 – 6 months.  It speeds recovery and can be taken by anyone at home.  And a puzzling new nasal spay that seems too good to be true, but which is certainly continuing to get good press.

Care to be how long it will be before either appears as a recommended treatment for newly infected sufferers?

Vaccine News

Here’s an interesting read about the development of the J&J single-shot vaccine – written just before its distribution was “paused”.  It has, for some time, been my preferred vaccine, and I’d take a dose of it tomorrow to back up my enthusiasm for it with my total confidence about its safety.

The press is struggling to decide if the reality of a very small number of vaccinated people still coming down with the virus is big news and bad news or not.  Certainly it is disappointing, but it has always been expected, and as long as the infections vaccinated people suffer are mild and infrequent, it is not really bad news, but it is all the more reason to “do the decent thing” and get HCQ, IVM, and other beneficial treatments approved and out there.

Something else that has also been expected is that the vaccine might be short-lasting rather than giving lifetime coverage.  This is also disappointing, but expected.  The need for regular (perhaps annual?) “booster” shots is a combination of rapidly fading immunity on the one hand, and the rapidly mutating form of the virus on the other hand.  I’ve written about both issues for very many months; the press is starting to do so too, now.

If we are to need to keep getting booster shots, then for those of us who are somewhat, ahem, needle-averse, we hope this new vaccine will rapidly get to market.

 Timings And Numbers

Here’s a slightly different view on national vaccination programs – it shows the varying average daily rate of vaccination.

We have to proudly note the steady rise of the US, with ever increasing daily rates of doses dished out.  The UK rate fell due to problems getting doses due to Europe’s embargo on exporting doses out of Europe, but has started to pick up again, while Canada’s rise, after a slow start, continues to be impressive too.

This second chart shows the changing rates of new cases over the last two months.  Clearly, the UK has been the best performer, and while you can choose the measure you use to determine the worst performer, we have to note that our neighbor to the north is now suffering more new cases per day than we are, an astonishing change in situation.

Also of note is the enormous nation of India, which has gone from being the best of the measured countries/regions two months ago to now showing a seriously rising rate of new infections.

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

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